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Summary: Despite the repeated efforts of mankind to duplicate the work of the Lord, His work is unique and man is unable to do what He does. Eventually, those who imagine they can supplant God crash up against reality, and they are revealed to be frauds.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.”’ And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So, there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’” [1]

The futility of those who inhabit this darkened world to stand against the might of God is witnessed in the phrase that constitutes the title of the message to be delivered this day: “But they could not.” That futility of opposing the Living God is witnessed throughout the Word of God. As an illustration of the futility of the denizens of this world to oppose God, recall an account from the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel. “King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.”

No doubt you remember the account recorded in the Book. The monarch threw a party. While the wine was flowing freely and everyone was feeling good, the king decided to bring in the vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. “Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.”

So, these sacred vessels were brought in; all the partiers grabbed a goblet, filled it with wine and began to drink. As they drank, they praised the gods which their hands had created. We read, “Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.”

However, as they were drinking, partying, dishonouring the LORD God, something weird happened. It was something inexplicable, something so fantastic that it had to be seen to believe. “Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand.”

That got everyone’s attention! “And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, ‘Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.’”

Here is the point I am making in this message: “Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed.” Did you catch that? “But they could not!” The most brilliant cryptologists money could buy were brought in; they saw the strange marks and they collectively shrugged their shoulders and uttered the familiar words the world seems always to say, “I dunno!”

No wonder the king was alarmed. No wonder his colour changed. No wonder his lords were perplexed. The most learned men in the kingdom were unable to understand what they saw; they couldn’t interpret what was right there before their eyes. The wall was left with the strange marks glaring at those present that night. Those strange marks seemed to taunt and condemn everyone present; and there was no one able to tell the king what those marks meant!

There were, within the kingdom, a few people who recalled Belshazzar’s grandfather, and especially the way in which he had been humbled before the Lord. One of those was the queen mother, the wife of Nabonidus and mother of Belshazzar. She does not appear to have been present at the party, but she had likely heard about it, perhaps from her servants. Thus, we read, “The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, ‘O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.’”

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